Dr. Nick Austin and Dr. Paul Fox, Crop Research Program Manager, used the three-day visit to witness first  hand the partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and ACIAR (Australian Center for International Agriculture Research) through the Seeds of Life, (SoL).

“The availability of new varieties and genetics  in Timor-Leste has received a great boost from the research, introduction and multiplication of high-quality seeds by the Seeds of Life program,” said Dr. Nick Austin, CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) during his first visit to Timor-Leste.

Dr. Austin traveled to the District of Aileu, south of Dili, to attend a farmer field day, where farmers and researchers together tested a wide range of cassava varieties. This MAF Research Center located in Quinta Portugal and used by SoL for trailing new varieties of crops has been one of 4 testing locations  for many crop varieties that have been  released by MAF and cultivated by Timorese farmer.

Farmers and researchers from MAF showed Dr. Austin and Dr. Fox new varieties of cassava, demonstrating the techniques of measuring starch content and determining the concentration of cyanide (HCN) of new trial varieties.

Another highlight of the trip was the visiting a farmer producing sweet potato  cuttings of sweet potato varieties that suit the taste and needs of Timorese. “Traditional varieties used by Timorese farmers produce low yields over an 8 month period The introduction of  new varieties allows farmers to have access to  varieties, that will produce twice the yield in half the time, “ said Dr. Austin. “The most important thing is that this allows farmers to access new varieties.”

During their visit to Timor -Leste, Dr. Austin (ACIAR CEO) and Dr. Fox had an opportunity to take part in the official launch of Climate Change Report, released by MAF and SoL.

The research has analyzed data from international weather and climate institutions from Australia, Europe and North America. Climate prediction maps specific for Timor-Leste were then produced from this data.  The report will bring together needed information and explain the possible impacts for agriculture in Timor-Leste.

“I’d like to acknowledge the genuine commitment of the Ministry of Agricultural and Fisheries as partners in Seeds of Life. Without their remarkable commitment, the program would not be a success”, Dr. Austin, confirmed.

This report will enable Timorese farmers to better understand potential changes in farming practices and will enhance and even improve the food security.

Seeds of Life has been working in Timor-Leste for the past ten years and is funded jointly by the Governments of Timor Leste and Australia.  Australian funding for the current phase is through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) plus ACIAR and is managed by ACIAR.  The Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA) within the University of Western Australia coordinates the Australian funded activities.  SoL has  achieved enormous success through their work, while improving productivity and creating conditions for a sustainable agricultural system in Timor-Leste.